Sunday, September 28, 2008

Operating system analogies

After reading Neal Stephenson's excellent ebook In the Beginning was the Command Line I was struck by the brilliance of his OS analogies (the book was written in 1999 but still holds true today):

  • Apple OS X: a beautiful, reliable, ergonomic, brilliantly designed, European coupe. The only problem is when you open the boot everything is covered by plastic, and the only way you can repair any problems is by returning the car to the manufacturer.
  • Windows anything: an ugly, inefficient, unergonomic and poorly designed station wagon that nevertheless became incredibly successful.
  • Linux: an incredibly efficient, military-spec machine that never fails and can do 100 mph at 100 mpg over rough terrain. Anything and everything about it can be altered in the field by the user. Oh, and it's completely free and support is also completely free.
Other analogies that spring to mind from the Star Wars mythos:

  • Apple OS X: Queen Amidala's shiny spaceship in A Phantom Menace. Really nice to look at but a bitch to repair if something goes wrong (not that anything does go wrong unless you're being attacked by someone).
  • Windows: tricky. I'm inclined to go with Star Destroyers: big, slow, ugly, cumbersome, but incredibly powerful (but not by virtue of good design).
  • Linux: the Millennium Falcon. The best there is, and fully user-alterable. However the anaology breaks down when you consider that the Millennium Falcon is fairly unreliable, and requires constant maintenance.

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